You might think that a rainy day means no hiking – but you’re wrong. Waterfall hiking trails are at their most magical when it’s pouring! Here’s how to prepare for a rainy day hike and what to expect.
Hiking in The Rain – Exciting, But Dangerous
There are a few things you need to think about before you go (and while you’re on the trail) that are different from a sunny day hike.
You might not need sunscreen – but you will need insect repellent. You probably don’t need to worry about carrying too much water either, but you will need to keep an eye on the water levels in creeks and rivers.
1. Bring a Waterproof Backpack Cover
If you’re planning on heading outdoors in the rain, make sure you invest in a good waterproof backpack cover. In my experience, backpack covers are never truly waterproof but some are better than others.
Usually the ones that are included with backpacks aren’t good enough. I learnt this the hard way when my backpack cover failed in consistent heavy rain and anything that wasn’t contained in a dry bag was soaked through. In cold weather, this could be very dangerous.
Head to your nearest outdoor shop and check out the range of backpack covers. They come in all different sizes to cover daypacks up to overnight packs.
2. Drybags Are Essential
Drybags are essential in wet weather to protect your valuables such as camera, phone and car keys.
Drybags also come in various sizes, generally starting from 5L, and you can get anything from ultralight bags to heavy-duty ones.
3. Be Aware of Rising Creeks And Rivers
This is an important one. As I experienced on a recent rainy day hike, rising creeks and rivers can be a real threat.
Remember, it’s not just the water falling where you are, but the water falling higher up in the catchment that’ll impact the creeks and rivers around you as it heads downstream. Long bouts of dry weather can lead to water ‘sheeting’ off hard soil in some areas, while long periods of rain can soak the soil, resulting in a similar flooding danger.
There’s potential for flash flooding in heavy rain, so be very careful when hiking on trails that cross creeks and rivers. If it looks treacherous to cross, or crossing cuts you off if water levels rise dramatically, it’s better to err on the side of caution and turn back.
4. Leeches Are a Necessary Evil
Leeches and rain run together and you can’t have one without the other in a rainforest area.
Unfortunately insect repellent may not save you, no matter how high the DEET content is. Your best defence is to cover up as much as possible.
Even then you might find five leeches hiding under your socks – it’s ok, they’re nicer than ticks.
5. You’ll Get Wet (And Potentially Cold)
I’ve never found a rainjacket that’s 100% waterproof, but you can get close if you spend the money. By the time I finished my hike I was soaked through from head to toe. In warmer weather, some of this wetness might just be from sweat, but it has the same effect.
Luckily because I was in Queensland, we were just wet and not cold. If you’re hiking in cold and wet weather, think about what layers are best for wicking sweat and keeping you warm if they do get wet.
6. Bring a Spare Change of Clothes
In preparation for being soaked, make sure you bring a towel, a change of clothes, flip flops and a plastic bag for your wet clothes. You’re sure to want to put something dry on after walking through the rain for hours (I’m not sure if there’s a better feeling!)
7. Wear Shoes You Don’t Mind Getting Wet
By the end of your hike, you likely won’t care if you plough headlong into ankle-deep water – your shoes and socks are already soaked through.
So wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet – but also have good grip. On a rainy day, trails will be muddy and slippery – so make sure you have adequate shoes to hold up to the conditions.
Avoid cotton like the plague! It chafes, sucks the heat out of you and never dries. This is particularly important with socks – get some wool ones and don’t look back. Check out our guide to find the best waterproof hiking boots.
If your shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper when you get home and put them close (but not too close!) to a heater to aid the drying process if there’s no sun about.
Feature photo by Sam Christie